Background Notes: Egypt
Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public
Date: Dec 15, 199012/15/90
Region: MidEast/North Africa
Subject: Travel, History, International Organizations,
Official Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Area: 1,001,450 sq. km. (386,650 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than
Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas combined. Cities: Capital-Cairo (pop.
over 12 million). Other cities-Alexandria (4 million), Aswan, Asyut,
Port Said, Suez, Ismailia. Terrain: Desert except Nile Valley and
Delta. Climate: Dry, hot summer, moderate winters.
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Egyptian(s).
Population (1989): 54.8 million.
Annual growth rate: 2.6%.
Ethnic groups: Egyptian, Bedouin Arab, Nubian.
Religions: Sunni Muslim 90%, Coptic Christian.
Languages: Arabic (official), English, French.
Education: Years compulsory-ages 6-12. Literacy-45%.
Health: Infant mortality rate-(1989) 93/1,000. Life expectancy-
Work force: Agriculture-44%. Government, Public Service and Armed
Forces-36%. Privately owned service and manufacturing
Type: Republic. Independence: 1922. Constitution: 1971.
Branches: Executive-president, prime minister, cabinet.
Legislative-People's Assembly (444 elected and 10 presidentially
appointed members) and Shura (Consultative) Council (140 elected
members, 70 presidentially appointed). Judicial-Court of Cassation,
Administrative subdivisions: 26 governorates.
Political parties: National Democratic Party (ruling), New Wafd
Party, Socialist Labor Party, Socialist Liberal Party, National
Progressive Unionist Grouping, Umma Party. Suffrage: Universal
Central government budget (FY 1989-90): $30.3 billion.
Flag: Three horizontal stripes-red, white, and black from top to
bottom-with a golden hawk in the center stripe.
GDP (FY 1987-88): $34.5 billion. Annual growth rate: 2%.
Per capita GNP (1987 ): $680.
Natural resources: Petroleum and natural gas, iron ore, phosphates,
manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, zinc.
Agriculture: Products-cotton, rice, onions, beans, citrus fruits,
wheat, corn, barley, sugar.
Industry: Types-food processing, textiles, chemicals,
petrochemicals, construction, light manufacturing, iron and steel
products, aluminum, cement, military equipment.
Trade (FY 1988-89): Exports-$2.5 billion: petroleum, cotton,
manufactured goods. Major markets-United States, Japan, Italy,
Germany, France, UK. Imports-$10.1 billion: foodstuffs, machinery
and transport equipment, paper and wood products. Major suppliers-
US, Germany, France, Japan, Netherlands, UK, Italy.
Free market exchange rate: 2.59 Egyptian pounds=US$1 (fluctuates).
Membership in International Organizations
UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Arab League; Nonaligned Movement;
Organization of African Unity (OAU); Organization of the Islamic
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the
second most populous on the African Continent. Of the country's 54
million people, 99% live in Cairo and Alexandria, elsewhere on the
banks of the Nile River, in the Nile Delta, which fans out north of
Cairo, and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's
most densely populated, containing an average of over 1,450
persons per square kilometer (3,600 per sq. mi.). Small communities
spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt are clustered around
oases and historic trade and transportation routes. The government
has tried, with mixed success, to encourage migration to newly
irrigated land reclaimed from the desert. However, the proportion of
the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as
people move to the cities in search of employment and a higher
standard of living.
The Egyptians are fairly homogenous: Mediterranean and Arab
influences appear in the north, as well as some mixing in the south
with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a
small number of Bedouin Arab nomads dispersed in the eastern and
western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000-100,000
Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper Egypt. Before construction
of the Aswan High Dam began, Nubian villages stretched irregularly
along the Nile; they have since been relocated along the banks of
The literacy rate is about 45% of the adult population.
Education is free through university and compulsory from ages 6 to
12. About 87% of all children enter primary school; half of these
drop out after their sixth year. There are 16,000 primary and
secondary schools with some 10 million students and 12 major
universities with about 500,000 students, as well as 67 teacher
colleges. Major universities include those of Cairo (100,000
students) and Alexandria and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar
University, one of the world's major centers of Islamic learning.
Arabic is the official language.
Egypt's vast and rich literature constitutes an important
cultural element in the life of the country and in the Arab world as
a whole. Its novelists and poets were among the first to experiment
with new styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed
have been widely imitated. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was
the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Egyptian books
and films are available throughout the Middle East.
Egypt has endured as a unified state for more than 5,000 years,
and archeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian
society has existed much longer. Modern leaders urge Egyptians to
take pride in their "pharaonic heritage" and in their descent from
mankind's earliest civilized society. The Arabic word for Egypt is
Misr, which originally connoted civilization or metropolis.
Archeological findings show that primitive man lived along the
Nile long before the dynastic history of the pharaohs began. By BC
6000, organized agriculture had appeared.
In about BC 3100, Egypt was united under a ruler known as
Mena, or Menes, who inaugurated the 30 pharaonic dynasties into
which Egypt's ancient history is divided-the Old and Middle
Kingdoms and the New Empire. For the first time, the use and
management of vital resources of the Nile River came under one
The pyramids at Giza (near Cairo) were built in the 4th
dynasty, showing the power of the pharaonic religion and state. The
Great Pyramid, the tomb of Pharoah Khufu (also known as Cheops),
is the only surviving example of what the ancients called the Seven
Wonders of the World. Ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power,
wealth, and territorial extent in the period called the New Empire
(BC 1567-1085). Authority again was centralized, and a number of
military campaigns brought Palestine, Syria, and northern Iraq
under Egyptian control. The language of ancient Egypt was related to
the Berber and Semitic languages, with a lesser Galla and Somali
Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab Conquerors
In BC 525, the Persian warrior Cambyses, son of Cyrus the
Great, led an invasion force that dethroned the last pharaoh of the
26th dynasty. The country remained a Persian province until the
conquest of Alexander the Great in BC 332. This legendary figure
founded and gave his name to Alexandria, the port city that became
one of the great centers of the Mediterranean world. Located there
was another "wonder"-the lighthouse at Pharos-and the largest
libraries of the ancient world. With a population of 300,000, the
city was a center of Hellenistic and Jewish culture. After
Alexander's death in BC 323, the Macedonian commander, Ptolemy,
established personal control over Egypt, assuming the title of
pharaoh in BC 304. The Ptolemaic line ended in BC 30 with the
suicide of Queen Cleopatra. The Emperor Augustus then established
direct Roman control over Egypt, initiating almost seven centuries
of Roman and Byzantine rule. According to tradition, St. Mark
brought Christianity to Egypt in AD 37. The church in Alexandria
was founded about AD 40, and the new religion spread quickly,
reaching Upper Egypt by the second century.
Following a brief Persian reconquest, Egypt was invaded and
conquered by Arab forces in 642. A process of Arabization and
Islamization ensued. Although a Coptic Christian minority
remained-and remains today, constituting about 10% of the
population-the Arabic language inexorably supplanted the
indigenous Coptic tongue. For the next 1,300 years, a succession of
Turkish, Arabic, Mameluke, and Ottoman caliphs, beys, and sultans
ruled the country.
Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in Egypt in 1798. The 3-year
sojourn in Egypt (1798-1801) of Napoleon's army and a retinue of
French scientists opened it to direct Western influence. Napoleon's
adventure awakened Great Britain to the importance of Egypt as a
vital link with India and the Far East and launched a century-and-a-
half of Anglo-French rivalry over the region.
An Anglo-Ottoman invasion force drove out the French in 1801,
and following a period of chaos, the Albanian Muhammad Ali
obtained control of the country. Ali ruled until 1849, and his
successors retained at least nominal control of Egypt until 1952. He
imported European culture and technology, introduced state
organization of Egypt's economic life, improved education, and
fostered training in engineering and medicine. His authoritarian rule
also was marked by a series of foreign military adventures. Ali's
successors granted to the French promoter, Ferdinand de Lesseps, a
concession for construction of the Suez Canal-begun in 1859 and
opened 10 years later. Their regimes were characterized by
financial mismanagement and personal extravagance that led to
bankruptcy. These developments led to rapid expansion of British
and French financial oversight that, in turn, provoked popular
resentment, unrest, and, finally, revolt in 1879.
In 1882, British expeditionary forces crushed the revolt,
marking the beginning of British occupation and the virtual
inclusion of Egypt within the British Empire. Between 1883 and
1914, the British Agency was the real source of authority. It
established special courts to enforce foreign laws for foreigners
residing in the country. Such privileges for foreigners generated
increasing Egyptian resentment. To secure its interests during
World War I, Britain declared a formal protectorate over Egypt on
December 18, 1914. This lasted until February 28, 1922, when, in
deference to growing nationalist feelings, Britain unilaterally
declared Egyptian independence. British influence, however,
continued to dominate Egypt's political life, and fostered fiscal,
administrative, and governmental reforms.
In the postindependence period, three political forces
competed with one another: the Wafd, a broadly based, nationalist
political organization strongly opposed to British influence; King
Fuad, whom the British had installed on the throne during the war;
and the British themselves, who were determined to maintain
control over the Suez Canal. Although both the Wafd and the king
wanted to achieve independence from the British, they competed
for control of Egypt. Other political forces emerging in this period
included the Communist Party (1925) and the Muslim Brotherhood
(1928), which eventually became a potent political and religious
During World War II, British troops used Egypt as a base for
Allied operations throughout the region. British troops were
withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947, but nationalist, anti-
British feelings continued to grow after the war. Violence broke out
in early 1952 between Egyptians and British in the canal area, and
anti-Western rioting in Cairo followed.
On July 22-23, 1952, a group of disaffected army officers led
by Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk, whom the
military blamed for Egypt's poor performance in the 1948 war with
Israel. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, they
abrogated the 1923 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on
June 18, 1953. Nasser evolved into a charismatic leader with a
broad following in the Arab world as a whole.
Nasser and his "Free Officer" movement enjoyed almost instant
legitimacy for ending 2,500 years of foreign rule. They were
motivated by numerous grievances and goals but wanted especially
to break the economic and political power of the landowning elite,
to remove all vestiges of British control, and to improve the lot of
the people, especially the fellahin (peasants).
A secular nationalist, Nasser developed a foreign policy
characterized by advocacy of pan-Arab socialism, leadership of the
"nonaligned" or "Third World," and close ties with the Soviet Union.
He sharply opposed the Western-sponsored Baghdad Pact (1955).
When the United States held up military sales in reaction to
Egyptian neutrality vis-a-vis Moscow, Nasser concluded an arms
deal with Czechoslovakia in September 1955. When the United
States and the World Bank withdrew their offer to help finance the
Aswan High Dam in mid-1956, he nationalized the privately owned
Suez Canal Company. The crisis that followed, exacerbated by
growing tensions with Israel over guerrilla attacks from Gaza and
Israeli reprisals, resulted in the invasion of Egypt that October by
France, the United Kingdom, and Israel. While Egypt was defeated,
the invasion forces were quickly withdrawn under heavy US
pressure. The Suez war (or, as the Egyptians call it, the tripartite
aggression) instantly transformed Nasser into an Egyptian and Arab
hero. Nasser soon after came to terms with Moscow for the
financing of the Aswan High Dam-a step that enormously increased
Soviet involvement in Egypt and set Nasser's government on a policy
of close ties with the Soviet Union. In 1958, pursuant to his policy
of pan-Arabism, Nasser succeeded in uniting Egypt and Syria into
the United Arab Republic. Although this union had failed by 1961, it
was not officially dissolved until 1984.
Nasser's domestic policies were arbitrary; frequently
oppressive; yet generally popular. The regime jailed opponents often
without trial. Nasser's foreign policies, among other things, helped
provoke the Israeli air and armor strikes of June 1967 that
virtually destroyed the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and
led to Israel's occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the
West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Despite this setback, Nasser was
revered in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world until his death in
After Nasser's death, one of the original Free Officers, Vice
President Anwar el-Sadat, was elected president after Nasser's
death. In 1971, Sadat concluded a treaty of friendship with the
Soviet Union but, a year later, ordered Soviet advisers to leave
Egypt. In 1973, he launched the October war with Israel, in which
the Egyptian Armed Forces performed effectively. With his country's
credibility restored, Sadat felt able, in 1974 and 1975, with US
participation, to negotiate two Sinai disengagement agreements
with Israel by which Egypt regained the Suez Canal and parts of the
Sinai. In 1977, Sadat journeyed to Jerusalem to meet with Prime
Minister Begin and to address the Israeli Knesset. This breakthrough
foreshadowed the Camp David accords of September 1978 and the
Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979, both negotiated with
intensive US participation. Throughout this period, US-Egyptian
relations steadily improved, but Sadat's willingness to break ranks
by making peace with Israel earned him the enmity of most Arab
Camp David and the Peace Process
In a momentous change from the Nasser era, President Sadat
shifted Egypt from a policy of conflict with Israel to one favoring
peaceful accommodation through direct negotiation. Following the
Sinai disengagement agreements of 1974 and 1975, a fresh opening
for progress was created by Sadat's dramatic visit to Jerusalem in
November 1977. This led to President Jimmy Carter's invitation to
Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin to join him in trilateral
negotiations at Camp David. The outcome was the historic Camp
David accords, signed by Sadat and Begin and witnessed by Carter on
September 17, 1978. These agreements comprise frameworks for a
comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict and for a
peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Negotiations on bilateral peace began in October 1978 and
were concluded with the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty on
March 26, 1979. However, efforts at progress on the other
framework, which provides for the establishment of transitional
arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza, proved problematical.
After Jordan and representative Palestinians declined to take part,
the United States joined Egypt and Israel in the negotiations to
shape an autonomous self-governing authority for the area. Some
progress was made in bridging differences on the nature and
responsibilities of the self-governing authority, but the
negotiations ended in 1982 without a final accord on transitional
In domestic policy, Sadat introduced greater political freedom
and a new economic policy, the most important aspect of which was
the infitah, or "open door." This policy relaxed government controls
over the economy and encouraged private investment. Sadat
dismantled much of Nasser's police apparatus and brought to trial a
number of former government officials accused of criminal
excesses during his predecessor's rule. This liberalization also
included the reinstitution of due process and the banning of torture.
Sadat tried to expand participation in the political process in the
mid-1970s but later abandoned this effort. In the last years of his
life, Egypt was racked by violence arising from discontent with
Sadat's rule and sectarian tensions, and it experienced a renewed
measure of repression.
On October 6, 1981, President Sadat was assassinated by
Islamic extremists. Hosni Mubarak, vice president since 1975 and
Air Force Commander during the October 1973 war, was elected
president later that month. He was re-elected to a second term in
October 1987. Mubarak has maintained Egypt's commitment to the
Camp David peace process, while at the same time re-establishing
Egypt's position as an Arab leader. Egypt's readmission to the Arab
League in May 1989 effectively ended its ostracism from the Arab
community. Egypt also has assumed a leading role for moderation in
such international forums as the United Nations and the Nonaligned
Movement. From July 1989 to July 1990, Mubarak was chairman of
the Organization of African Unity. Domestically, Mubarak has
supported the public sector of the economy while also encouraging
the private sector. There has been a democratic opening and
increased participation in the political process by opposition
groups. The 1987 parliamentary elections were the fairest since
1952 and resulted in the election of 100 opposition members out of
a total of 458 seats. Freedom of the press has increased greatly.
While concern remains that economic problems could promote
increasing dissatisfaction with the government, President Mubarak
enjoys broad support.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Egyptian constitution provides for a strong executive.
Authority is vested in an elected president who can appoint one or
more vice presidents, a prime minister, and a cabinet. The
president's term runs for 6 years. Egypt's legislative body, the
People's Assembly, has 454 members-444 popularly elected and 10
appointed by the president. The constitution reserves 50% of the
assembly seats for workers and peasants. The assembly sits for a
5-year term but can be dissolved earlier by the president. There is
also a 210-member National Shura (Consultative) Council, in which
70 members are appointed and 140 elected. The Shura Council has
little real power. Below the national level, authority is exercised by
and through governors and mayors appointed by the central
government, and by popularly elected councils.
Although power is concentrated in the presidency and the
National Democratic Party's majority in the People's Assembly,
opposition parties organize, publish their views, and represent their
followers at various levels in the political system. In addition to
the National Democratic Party, there are five legally constituted
parties: the New Wafd Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the
Nationalist Progressive Unionist Grouping, the Socialist Liberal
Party, and the Umma Party. The New Wafd Party and the Socialist
Labor Party (in alliance with the Socialist Liberals and the Muslim
Brotherhood) won 90 seats in the People's Assembly in elections of
April 1987. The law prohibits the formation of parties on religious
or class lines, thereby making it illegal for Islamic or communist
groups to organize formally as political parties. However, members
of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization legally proscribed under
the provisions of this law, are members of the assembly as part of
the Socialist Labor Party delegation.
Egypt's judicial system is based on European (primarily French)
legal concepts and methods. Under the Mubarak government, the
courts have demonstrated increasing independence, and the
principles of due process and judicial review have gained greater
respect. The legal code is derived largely from the Napoleonic code.
Marriage and personal status are primarily based on the religious
law of the individual concerned, which for most Egyptians is
The process of gradual political liberalization begun by Sadat
has continued under Mubarak, but the political process remains
significantly restricted. Egypt now enjoys unprecedented freedom
of the press, and opposition political parties operate freely.
Although the April 1987 parliamentary elections were marked by
the greatest freedom of political expression seen in Egypt for more
than three decades, opposition parties continue to make credible
complaints about electoral fraud by the government; in the 1989
Shura Council elections, for example, the ruling NDP won 100% of
the seats. Nevertheless, the November 1990 assembly elections-in
which a number of independent and non-NDP candidates won seats-
are generally considered to have been free and fair.
Egypt maintains an embassy in the United States at 2310
Decatur Place NW., Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-232-5400). The
Washington Consulate has the same address (tel. 202-234-3903).
The Egyptian Mission to the UN is located at 36 East 67th Street,
New York, NY, (tel. 212-879-6300). Egyptian Consulates General are
located at 1110 Second Avenue, New York, NY, 10022 (tel. 212-759-
7120); Houston, 2000 West Loop South, Suite 1750, Control Data
Building, Houston, TX, 77027 (tel. 713-961-4915); Chicago, 505 N.
Lakeshore Drive, Suite 4902, Chicago, IL, 60611 (tel. 312-670-
2655); and San Francisco at 3001 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco,
CA, 94115 (TEL: 415-346-9700).
Egypt's gross domestic product was about $34.5 billion in
1987-88. Agriculture and industry each contributed about 20% and
services about 33% of GDP.
Although Egypt's private sector is expanding, about 65% of its
industry, including virtually all heavy industry, is owned by the
state. State price controls affect many privately owned small- and
medium-scale industries that often must compete with products
subsidized by the government. Agriculture is mainly in private
hands but is regulated through price controls, import allocations,
and guidelines on production administered through local agricultural
cooperatives. Construction, nonfinancial services, and domestic
marketing are largely private.
More than one-third of the Egyptian labor force is engaged
directly in farming, and many others work in the processing or
trading of agricultural products. Practically all Egyptian agriculture
takes place in some 2.5 million hectares (6 million acres) of fertile
soil in the valley of the Nile and its delta regions. Although some
desert lands are being developed for agriculture, fertile lands along
the river are being lost to urbanization and erosion.
The climate and ready availability of water, especially since
the building of the Aswan Dam, permit several crops a year on the
same piece of land. Although improvement is possible, agricultural
productivity is high. Egypt has little subsistence farming. Cotton,
rice, onions, and beans are the principal crops. Cotton is the largest
agricultural export earner.
The United States is a major supplier of wheat to Egypt,
particularly through the PL 480 (Food for Peace) program, and other
Western countries also have supplied food on concessional terms.
"Egypt," wrote the Greek historian Herodotus 25 centuries ago,
"is the gift of the Nile." The seemingly inexhaustible resources of
water and soil carried by this mighty river created in the Nile
Valley and Delta the world's most extensive oasis; without the Nile,
Egypt would be little more than a desert wasteland. The river
carves a narrow, cultivated floodplain, never more than 20
kilometers wide, as it travels northward from Sudan and forms Lake
Nasser behind the Aswan High Dam. It then winds past the
archeological wonders of Luxor (ancient Thebes) and the cities of
Qena and Asyut. Just north of Cairo, the Nile spreads out over what
was once a broad estuary that has been filled by riverine deposits
to form a fertile delta about 250 kilometers wide (150 mi.) at the
seaward base and about 160 kilometers (96 mi.) from south to
Until the erection of dams on the Nile, particularly the Aswan
High Dam, the fertility of the Nile Valley was dependent not only
upon the flow of water but also upon the silt deposited by annual
flood waters. Sediment is now obstructed by the Aswan High Dam
and retained in Lake Nasser. The discontinuation of yearly, natural
fertilization and the increasing salinity of the soil have detracted
somewhat from the High Dam's value. Nevertheless, the benefits
remain impressive: more intensive farming on millions of acres of
land made possible by improved irrigation; prevention of damage
caused by periodic serious flooding; and production of billions of
kilowatt-hours of electricity yearly at very low cost. The Western
Desert accounts for about two-thirds of the country's land area. For
the most part, it is a massive sandy plateau marked by seven major
depressions. One of these, Fayoum, was connected about 3,600 years
ago to the Nile by canals and is now an important irrigated
Egypt has few natural resources other than the agricultural
capacity of the Nile Valley. The major minerals are petroleum,
phosphates, and iron ore. The fall in world oil prices during the mid-
1980s had a severe impact on Egypt. In addition to a large drop in
per-barrel oil earnings, Egypt's slow-moving price-setting
mechanism prevented it from competing successfully for oil sales.
As a consequence, Egyptian oil production in 1986 dropped below
1985 levels in spite of new additions to production capacity. As oil
prices stabilized in late 1986, Egypt began to regain its share of
the market. Petroleum exploration continues, particularly in the
Western Desert. During 1988-89, Egyptian production of crude oil
dropped 3.7% percent over the previous year to approximately
760,000 barrels per day. Egypt's crude oil exports in FY 1988/89
totaled $1.4 billion. The petroleum sector accounts for about 14%
of Egypt's GDP and for about two-thirds of Egypt's exports.
Egypt has benefited from higher oil prices resulting from the
gulf crisis. However, the crisis has lowered remittances from
workers abroad and reduced revenue from tourism and the Suez
Transport and Communication
Transportation facilities in Egypt follow the pattern of
settlement along the Nile. The major rail line runs from Alexandria
to Aswan. Other important lines run along the north coast to the
Libyan border and eastward to the Suez Canal. Most paved and
improved roads are found in the Nile Valley and Delta, near the Suez
Canal, and along the Red Sea and Sinai coasts. The Nile River system
(about 1,600 km. or 1,000 mi.) plus another 1,600 kilometers of
navigable canals are important for inland transport. Major ports are
Alexandria, Port Said, and Port Suez.
Egypt long has been the cultural and informational center of
the Arab Middle East, and Cairo is the region's largest publishing
and broadcasting center. There are six daily newspapers with a
total circulation of more than 1.7 million. In addition there are 14
weekly magazines and newspapers with a total circulation of
500,000 and a number of monthly newspapers, magazines, and
journals. Every political party has its own newspaper contributing
to a lively, often highly partisan debate on public issues.
Under President Nasser, Egypt led the Arab world in developing
a comprehensive broadcasting system. State-run operations are
coordinated under the Egyptian Radio and Television Federation. The
Egyptian Broadcasting Corporation operates seven domestic and four
international radio stations, transmitting in 32 languages for a
total of 180 hours a day. The state-owned Egyptian Television
Organization operates two channels, broadcasting to a rapidly
growing national audience.
Egypt's armed forces are among the largest in the region and
are divided into four services: the army (300,000), air defense
(80,000), air force (29,000), and navy (20,000). In 1979, the United
States began a military supply relationship with Egypt. Egypt's
inventory also includes equipment from European sources-France,
Italy, the United Kingdom, and China. Much of its motorized
equipment is of Soviet origin, reflecting the long period of almost
exclusive Soviet supply from the late 1950s until the 1973 war
with Israel. Most of this equipment is now obsolete. Seeking to
bolster stability and moderation in the region, Egypt has provided
military assistance and training to a number of African and Arab
Under President Mubarak, Egypt ended its ostracism from the
Arab community without sacrificing its commitment to its peace
treaty with Israel. It was readmitted to the Arab League in May
1989, marking its resumption of a leadership role among moderate
Arab states. It now has formal diplomatic relationships with all
Arab League members except Libya. In July 1989, Mubarak was
elected to a 1-year term as Chairman of the Organization of African
Unity, formalizing Egypt's growing leadership in African issues.
Egypt actively works to resolve a number of difficult problems in
Africa, including the dispute between Senegal and Mauritania, and
the civil war in Sudan. Egypt has played a leading role in efforts to
moderate the Nonaligned Movement and make it a more effective
organization. There also has been a recent improvement in Egyptian-
Egypt's relations with Israel have improved in recent years,
despite some disappointments on both sides. The two countries have
solved a number of difficult bilateral issues through negotiation. In
1989, Israel turned over to Egypt a strip of land known as Taba,
ending the last remaining territorial dispute between the two
countries. Egypt and Israel have engaged in a useful program of
cooperative research in agriculture and marine sciences.
Throughout the 1980s, President Mubarak has led efforts to
advance the Middle East peace process and has been highly
supportive of US efforts. At the end of 1989, Egypt accepted US
Secretary of State Baker's five points to begin discussions with
Israel and the United States on Israeli Prime Minister Shamir's
election plan. Egypt believes it is important to get Israel and
Palestinians to begin negotiation, with the immediate focus on the
proposal for elections in the occupied territories. It has encouraged
serious consideration and discussion of Israel's election proposal by
Since his election in October 1981, President Mubarak has
strongly supported a special US-Egyptian relationship, based on
shared interests in regional security and stability and the need for
a peaceful resolution of outstanding problems. The two countries
have worked together to promote a peaceful settlement of the Arab-
Israeli conflict, to resolve a number of difficult conflicts in Africa,
and to resist Libyan aggression against Chad and the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan. President Mubarak visited the United States twice
during 1989, and he and President Bush discuss mutual concerns by
An important pillar of the bilateral relationship remains US
security and economic assistance to Egypt, which expanded
significantly in the wake of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in
1979. In FY 1989, total US assistance levels to Egypt remained
stable at $1.3 billion in foreign military sales (FMS ) grants, $815
million in economic support funds grants, and $170 million in PL
480 food aid. The Egyptians have used FMS funds for their military
modernization program-a transition from their former Soviet-
model military structure to a smaller, higher quality military that
is dependent on Western, primarily US, equipment, logistics,
tactics, and training.
US assistance promotes Egypt's economic development and
supports US-Egyptian cooperation. US economic aid helps stimulate
economic growth by funding commodity imports, such as raw
materials and capital equipment, and electric power,
telecommunications, housing and transport projects. Power plants
built with US assistance generate more electricity than the Aswan
Dam. In 1983, the United States agreed to a 5-year, $1 billion
program to overhaul the water and sewage systems of Cairo,
Alexandria, and other Egyptian cities.
US military cooperation has helped Egypt modernize its
deteriorating Soviet-supplied weaponry and improve its ability to
support regional security and stability. Under FMS programs, the
United States provides F-4 jet aircraft, F-16 jet fighters, M60A3
tanks, armored personnel carriers, antiaircraft missile batteries,
aerial surveillance aircraft, and other equipment. In addition to
military assistance, the United States and Egypt participate in
combined military exercises which include deployment of US troops
to Egypt. Units of the US Sixth Fleet are regular visitors to
The US Embassy in Cairo is located at 5 Sharia Latin America,
Garden City, Cairo; American Embassy, FPO NY, 09527 (tel. 355-
7371; telex: 93773 AMEMB). The Consulate General in Alexandria is
located at 110 Avenue Horreya; American Consulate General
Alexandria, c/o American Embassy, Box 27, FPO NY 09527 (tel.
Principal Government Officials
President-Muhammad Hosni Mubarak
Prime Minister-Atef Sedky
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs-Esmat
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs-Boutros Boutros Ghali
Ambassador to the United States-Abdel Raouf El-Reedy
Ambassador to the United Nations-Amr Musa
Principal US Officials
Ambassador-Frank G. Wisner
Deputy Chief of Mission-Wesley Egan
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs-Paul Balabanis
Counselor for Political Affairs-Stanley Escudero
Counselor for Commercial Affairs-Frederic Gaynor
Counselor for Public Affairs-Kenton Keith
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs-Frank Lee
Counselor for Administrative Affairs-James McGunnigle
Consul General-Vincent Battle
Labor Affairs Officer-Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley
Director, AID Mission-Marshall D. Brown
Defense Attache-Col. David Lemon, USA Chief, Office of Military
Cooperation-Maj. Gen. William Fitzgerald, USA
Consul General in Alexandria-Robert Maxim
Climate and clothing: Clothing should be suitable for hot
summers and temperate winters. Modest attire is appropriate.
Customs: Visas are required. Travelers are advised to obtain
visas through any Egyptian Embassy or consulate prior to travel.
Visas usually can be obtained on arrival, but this can result in
delays. Shots are not required by the Egyptian government for
visitors coming from the United States or Europe, but cholera
immunizations are required of travelers coming from infected
areas. The Department of State Medical Division recommends that
visitors to Egypt obtain cholera, typhoid, tetanus, polio, meningitis,
and hepatitis (gamma globulin) immunizations; travelers should
consult their physicians.
Health: Travelers should be aware of rabies hazards and
malaria in some outlying areas.
Telecommunications: Telephone service can be erratic.
Telegrams can be sent from the main post office and hotels, and
telex service is available. Cairo is 7 time zones ahead of eastern
Transportation: Domestic and international airlines serve
Cairo. Domestic air service from Cairo to Alexandria, Aswan, Luxor,
Hurghada, and the Sinai is available. Rail service is available from
Cairo to Aswan in the south and Alexandria in the north. Taxis are
often shared with other customers. Settle on a price before
entering a taxi.
Published by the United States Department of State, Bureau of
Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication , Washington, DC,
December 1990. Editor: Peter A. Knecht. Department of State
Publication 8152. Background Notes Series. This material is in the
public domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of
this source is appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of
Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.